CROYDON COMMENTARY: In the midst of National Trust tours and an architectural re-appraisal of the development of central Croydon in the 1960s, DAVID WICKENS expresses his fears that 2016’s planners risk not only repeating some of the mistakes of the 1960s, but creating many more
Today’s “experts” critical of yesterday’s ones? If only we could fast forward 50 years and see what they think of today’s experts.
Currently the theme or solution to the redevelopment of central Croydon is high-rise flats and a huge shopping mall. I seem to remember high-rise slums being demolished and “dead mall syndrome” becoming more common elsewhere. Having recently visited Shrewsbury, I saw signs of their malls struggling. There are plenty of more examples in the United States.
The price of the new flats proposed in the rebuilt Whitgift Centre will surely deter all but the very wealthy and I see them being bought as investments, rather than being sold to local people as homes to live in.
It remains a fact that people have cars and will want to park them. There will not be room for the residents of these 1,000 flats as part of the high-rise developments to park their vehicles, under the proposals submitted so far.
The current proposals do nothing to increase areas of open space in the town centre, and which is identified in the Architects’ Foundation film as lacking. The various tall buildings, including the sheer bulk of Hammersfield, will perpetuate the skyline and lack of visibility also mentioned by the documentary.
No schools are proposed to serve the proposed residents in the redeveloped centre.
The much-criticised road layout of the 1960s redevelopment of Croydon was never completed. Had the northern link road been built, it would have provided a ring road serving the car parks, shops and businesses.
Current experts are ever critical of the width of Wellesley Road but without it, how would Hammersfield be accessed, where would the trams run and how would North End have been pedestrianised?
We can all see the congestion when Wellesley Road is shut (as when the sink hole appeared in the Underpass recently), so perhaps we should be thankful that the road is there.
- David Wickens is a former senior council official, whose work included delivering the biggest engineering project yet seen in the borough, Tramlink
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